Not just a book about marriage: Pride and Prejudice – By Jane Austen

Classic Literature, Romance

Pride and Prejudice is one of those books I always felt I should have read. I didn’t even know what it was about, just that is was written by Jane Austen and considered a classic. But although I felt guilty for not reading it, I would never have gotten around to it if it hadn’t been for the film.

I came across the film on Amazon Prime, spotting Keira Knightley and some attractive man (Matthew MacFadyen) on the cover. Although apprehensive, I was intrigued, so decided to watch it.

I loved it; everything about it: the voices, the clothes and, most of all, the entertaining yet authentic characters. After watching the film, I knew that I had to read the book, and that I might even enjoy it (and what’s more, understand what’s going on, which is more than I can say about every Dickens I’ve attempted).

That night, I picked it up. It was slow-going at first, but the zingy one-liners kept me going. Even that too oft-quoted first sentence possesses a magical quality:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This book does have a plot, too, of course, but I must stress: its beauty isn’t borne from any complicated plot intricacies or exotic location descriptions. It’s in the characters and their small yet significant interactions. Strictly speaking, Pride and Prejudice is about a group of sisters looking for men to marry. Most if not all of them make a fool of themselves in the process. There are rich, attractive men, and less rich, certainly less attractive men. There are old ladies in fancy gowns, horse-drawn carriages, piano fortes, card games. If these details aren’t handsome enough to tempt you, then fear not: the book is more than its constituent parts. Yes, it’s an enduring, addictive love story – and you won’t help but root for our leading couple – but it’s also about class differences (even within the same class), character virtues and how overrated first impressions are.

If you’re still not convinced, read it for Elizabeth. The only Bennet sister who isn’t silly and ignorant, she’s headstrong, funny, opinionated. To everyone around her, and especially to Mr Darcy, she’s enchanting, bewitching. She’s a role model, not because of her looks or her charm on men, but for her character. For her kindness, wit, smart, and also for her faults. Perhaps she wasn’t a feminist (if they had existed at the time), but she was one of the first female characters for readers to look up to; that’s pretty special.

Finally, Pride and Prejudice is a period piece, offering an insight into Georgian life. If, like me, you’re fascinated by this era and its idiosyncrasies, read this book for a front-row seat onto the everyday ups and downs of an (upper) middle-class lifestyle. It’s an understanding that you simply can’t gain from a history textbook.

This book draws you in with its irresistible love story, but keeps you wanting more with its vivid characters, amusing interactions and fascinating details of regency life. I can’t say how glad I am for having clicked that Watch Now button – thanks to that movie, I have gained another favourite book to forever return to.

I strongly recommend that you give it a try, too. I would even go so far as to (I admit, blasphemously) suggest watching the movie first like me – it’s captivating, and less of an investment. You won’t regret it.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA (7)

Writing: AAAAAAAAAA (10)

Pace: Medium/Slow

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

Buy on Amazon (UK)

Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Buy on Amazon (US)

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For the love of books: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Classic Literature, Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Fahrenheit 451 foresees a world in which books are outlawed and TV rules over all. In the midst of all this emerges an unlikely hero: Guy Montag. A ‘fireman’, whose job is in fact to start fires rather than put them out, Montag meets a young girl who plants a seed in his mind that changes his life; a seed of questioning. Inspired by her curiosity about everything around her, the fireman begins to question his life, too, until he slowly – and then quite suddenly – realises that the society he lives in is deluded and utterly ignorant. From this epiphany, he resolves to change things, with drastic results.

I’m not a huge fan of science fiction novels, and I’m always somewhat apprehensive about reading a book that’s considered a classic. But I found 451‘s storyline intriguing, and although I sometimes struggled to visualise aspects of the world that Bradbury creates, the future he portrays is convincing. The book is perfectly readable and compelling, and its short length – only 211 pages – prevent it from being at all intimidating. The characters are vivid and credible, if not always likeable, and the narrative moves quickly. Above all, this book is thought-provoking, posing questions about authoritarianism and submission, the importance of culture, and the reliability and value of books. 451 reflects the future for our society if we continue as we do. The story is eery because, after 50 years, it’s still relevant – we still have the same questions, the same concerns about our lifestyles and our future.

What makes this novel so special is that it reminds you why books are so great; why books are important, vital even, to society. Despite making a strong case for how books can destroy, deceive, disorient, this only makes the overall effect stronger. I love this book for providing me with an escape, without pushing it on me, and for gently reminding me why I love books. After finishing 451, I couldn’t wait to devour another novel.

However, I was left a little unsatisfied by the end. Although the book ends powerfully, there was no mention of the girl Montag meets at the beginning, and I felt that a mention of her was important the bring the book full circle – especially as she doesn’t feature much in book, despite having huge impact on Montag.

Overall, 451 is enjoyable, though-provoking, and well-written; I would definitely recommend it.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Writing: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Pace: Quick

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

Buy on Amazon (UK)

Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Buy on Amazon (US)